This essay analyzes the published article: “Overuse of Antibiotics Spurs Vicious Cycle” (Jun 2010). The article is published by Dr Joseph Mercola on his website: “Mercola. Com: Take control of Your Health” and seeks to educate and persuade readers that current overuse of antibiotics in treating people is likely to cause patients to develop resistance to the drugs, which can have a residual effect for as much as a year after the medication is ended.
Summarizing Mercola’s article, he uses logos in suggesting that the more these antibiotics are prescribed routinely to treat mild illness such as coughs and influenza, the more it is likely that a vicious cycle develops in which the bacteria acquire resistance to the antibiotics. He quotes Reuters as stating that in Europe, in the USA and in other developed countries, that growing resistance is becoming a threat to the recovery from routine operations and treatments and in the intensive care environment, too. Mercola comments that although this phenomenon is widely known, few people take it into account in their daily lives and in their family dietary arrangements. He is referring to eating meat produced using industrial farming methods, which he claims exacerbates the problem. Using pathos to shock the reader, he also states that infections that are resistant to antibiotics are now responsible for more deaths per annum than AIDS, quoting as his source the October 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association which reported that in 2005 in the USA there were 17,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS, but in that same year 18,600 people in the USA died from MRSA. Furthermore, if all hospital acquired infections are taken into account, that death toll increases to 100,000 in 2007. In Mercola’s view, the situation will not improve so long as people routinely request antibiotics for even minor infections and the doctors obligingly prescribe them. In addition, according to the article, it’s costing the American healthcare system almost $2 billion per year to treat those bacteria that have become resistant to the drugs. Essentially, states Mercola, every time you use an antibiotic, you are not only increasing the likelihood that you will become susceptible to infections resistant to that same antibiotic, but you could become a carrier of that antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and so spread it to other people, too. He notes that although this problem needs addressing by hospitals and the healthcare system, it also needs tackling on a personal level by avoiding taking them (or allowing your children to take them) unless it is absolutely essential.
Mercola also notes that because antibiotics are extensively used (and overused) in agriculture – about 70 percent of all the antibiotics used in the USA – the effects can be transferred to humans eating the meat and consuming crops that have been treated with fertilizers containing antibiotics. In Denmark their pork industry stopped using antibiotics and found the antibiotic-resistant bacteria levels in the animals and their feed had fallen dramatically. For that reason, Mercola recommends we should be eating only the meat from grass-fed animals that have been organically-reared.
He also discusses what he calls natural methods to prevent MRSA, which primarily means hand washing (by doctors and nurses also!) before touching a patient, and to use a mild, non-antibacterial soap, as the antibacterial versions can build resistance in the bacteria. Other precautions he recommends include avoiding the sharing of personal items such as towels, razors and clothing, as well as using natural disinfectants and eating garlic.
According to “About Dr. Mercola” (n.d.) published on the mercola.com website, and presumably written by him as it is written in the first person, he attempts to use ethos as a tool by claiming that when he recommends products in his articles, a portion of the profits accrued from the sale of recommended products goes to various non-profit organizations. It is noted that the size of that portion is not specified.
The theme throughout his “About Dr. Mercola” piece seems to be generally anti-establishment, in that he refers to hype promulgated by the authorities and the media that diverts people from what is actually best for their wellbeing and often in a direction that can result in a premature death. Further, he remarks that: “The existing medical establishment is responsible for killing and permanently injuring millions of Americans.” He claims an impressive academic background, which includes being qualified as a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) and an extensive college and hospital career and associated certifications.
The intended audience for this article comprises not only those who follow his doctrines, by visiting his website and/or by subscribing to it (by following the link in the article), but also other who find his articles in various alternative health media and outlets like The Huffington Post. His articles (including this one) are no doubt likely to be popular reads with those who have ailments which perhaps have not yet been cured or resolved by the mainstream healthcare system. In the view of this researcher the article would clearly attract readers who have health concerns that Mercola’s doctrines seem to address in a more helpful way than might be the case from official sources.
Having reviewed the article and considered it as a whole, it seems evident that there is some solid basis for truth in the statements included and the claims made, yet perhaps the real objective of the article is to steer readers (especially those who are seeking a solution – any solution – to whatever their current medical problem might be) towards his alternative philosophies and healthcare solutions. It is only natural that such people, perhaps desperate to find a cure for some so far unresolved condition, will become avid followers of someone who is promising a new way and at the same time decrying the methods and treatments offered by the government’s existing (failed) healthcare policies and systems. For example, describing the huge numbers of fatalities from hospital-acquired infections will strike home to anyone who has lost someone close to such an infection.
As regards other people’s opinions of Mercola and his article, the article is followed by a Comments section, which at the time of writing comprised some 50 comments. Scanning them revealed none that were against his article, although it is possible there could be editorial filtering involved. In contrast, other articles about Dr Mercola and his writings are openly hostile. One such by Ruhl (Jul 2010), includes Dr Mercola in her article that heavily criticizes what she labels celebrity doctors. In the case of Dr. Mercola, Ruhl claims that visitors to his site will see that he discusses health ideas that were actually first originated by others, primarily so that he can market cures that may or may not be genuine. In fairness the referenced article on antibiotics did not do that, although this researcher did find other Mercola articles where that description did apply, and where readers were encouraged at the end to donate or subscribe.
In conclusion, whilst the article on overuse of antibiotics made interesting reading and some claims made were supported by quotes from sources such as Reuters, government sources and medical journals, there was a feeling of anti-establishmentism about it, reinforced when reading Mercola’s own article about himself, which included gems of pathos like the one mentioned earlier about the medical establishment being responsible for the deaths and permanent injuries to vast numbers of Americans.
“About Dr. Mercola.” (n.d.). mercola.com. Web. 25 November 2013.
Mercola, Joseph, Dr. (Oct 2009). “How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need to Take?” mercola.com. Web. 25 November 2013.
Ruhl, Jenny. (July 2010). “Dangerous Celebrity Doctors Who Prey on People with Diabetes.” Web. 25 November 2013.